As a person that suffers from chronic forgetting-everything-syndrome and also anxiety, I find myself making a lot of lists. This habit pulls itself into every other aspect of my life, including my writing.
The biggest thing that I do personally is plan out my novels. This goes from just the plot to mapping out the world (sometimes literally) and really trying to understand the culture of the world that I’m trying to work within.
The odd part is that despite all that planning, I constantly break my plans. I make those notes in all their meticulous detail and then I throw them out the window when I get going. Of course, I actually keep my notes around just in case I decide that I want them for this reason or that reason. Sometimes just knowing where the original thoughts were headed is a good way for me to keep myself on track when I’m working on the story going forward.
But the thing about plans is that sometimes you have to be willing to throw them to the wind. You have to know when it’s time to abandon them in favor of trying something brand new, something more exciting, or something that feels much more natural than the plans that you had before.
Using them as a guide is a great way to get a start, but there is always an alternative. Sometimes those alternatives don’t turn out quite as well as the original plan, but it’s good to have those choices for you when you’re sitting down to write.